Social Media Scare Sends Toledo Into Bottled-Water Frenzy

You can't blame the City of Toledo — where "microcystin" has become an everyday word — for being a little skittish about its drinking water.
Social Media Scare Sends Toledo Into Bottled-Water Frenzy

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In Toledo, Ohio, where unsafe microcystin levels forced a drinking water emergency earlier this month, the water rumor mill continues to churn. On Thursday, Aug. 21, the city experienced a rush on bottled water when rumors circulated that the city was about to enforce another ban. The issue become so persistent the city released a statement asking residents not to panic.

“The City of Toledo has received calls regarding rumors of a 'Do Not Drink' water advisory for today,” read the city’s Facebook page on Thursday. “There is no such advisory, and the water remains safe to drink. … We will continue to closely monitor the water quality and alert the public if the situation changes. Again, the water is safe to consume.”

All the while, bottled water flew off shelves at local grocery stores as rumors spread across Facebook and via word of mouth.

According to The Blade, the Food Town grocery store sold more water in an hour during the social media scare than it did over the past week. Store manager Adam Geer said the store was selling three 24-bottle cases for $9.99, and many customers purchased six or nine cases. By the afternoon, Geer had issued a three-case maximum per customer.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins says he understands the reaction, and that Thursday’s incident shows how skittish the city still is after the recent water emergency.

“I think the community has lost confidence in our water system, and I respect that,” he said in The Blade. “There has always been the expectation that our water is always safe and of a high quality. There’s never been a question about the quality of water.”

One way the mayor hopes to attack the algae bloom situation is by reviewing permits from the Bayview wastewater treatment plant, which disposes of sludge at an area waterfront landfill. It’s long been suspected that sludge from the dump is leaching into Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay.

However, the bigger question is how the EPA will monitor and regulate microcystin. For months, water plant operators and government officials have asked the EPA to establish a standard test and a drinking water standard for the toxin. Until then, states are left to create their own standards or rely on those published by the World Health Organization.

For now, Toledo is working hard to keep its residents informed. Algal toxic reports are available daily on the City’s website, and the City is routinely updating its Facebook page.


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